If a judge or jury convicts you of a criminal offense, you are likely to face a variety of legal consequences. Courts in Missouri may have legal authority to impose a prison sentence, assess a fine or do both. Typically, you can gauge your legal exposure by looking at the criminal statute for the offense under which prosecutors have charged you.
Sometimes, though, judges impose harsher sentences. Sentencing enhancements are additional penalties certain individuals face for violating the criminal laws of the Show Me State. In Missouri, sentencing enhancements often apply to persistent felony offenders and dangerous felony offenders.
Persistent felony offenders
If prosecutors have charged you with a felony criminal offense, you may receive a sentencing enhancement if you are also a persistent felony offender. This means a judge or jury has convicted you of two or more previous felonies.
Pleading guilty to two or more felony offenses also may make you eligible for a persistent-offender sentencing enhancement.
Dangerous felony offenders
Dangerous felony offenders also often receive sentencing enhancements. To be a dangerous felony offender, you must have committed a dangerous felony. Although there are many others, the following are common dangerous felonies in Missouri:
- First-degree arson
- First-degree assault
Even if sentencing enhancements seemingly apply to you, you may be able to minimize your legal exposure by arguing mitigating factors. These are simply factors that indicate you should receive a lesser sentence or an alternative one following your conviction.
Ultimately, whether you are susceptible to a sentencing enhancement or may benefit from mitigating factors or alternative sentencing are factual and legal questions. Therefore, to protect your rights and your freedom, it is critical to explore all available defense tactics and sentencing options.